Dava Sobel is an accomplished writer of popular expositions of scientific topics. A 1964 graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Ms. Sobel attended Antioch College and the City College of New York before receiving her bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1969. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from the University of Bath, in England, and Middlebury College, Vermont, both awarded in 2002.
In her four decades as a science journalist she has written for many magazines, including Audubon, Discover,Life and The New Yorker, served as a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine and Omni, and co-authored five books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake. Her most well known work isLongitude.
The asteroid 30935 Davasobel is named for her.
Her published books include:
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time
Anyone alive in the eighteeth century would have known that “the logitude problem” was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day–and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives, and the increasing fortunes of nations, hung on a resolution.
The scientific establishment of Europe–from Galileo to Sir Issac Newton–had mapped the heavens in both hemispheres in its certain pursuit of a celestial answer.
In stark contrast, one man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution–a clock that would keep percise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land.
Longitude is a dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest and Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.
Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love
Inspired by long fascination with Galileo and the surviving letters of his daughter, a cloistered nun, Sobel has written a biography of the one Einstein called “the father of modern physics–indeed of modern science altogether.” Galileo’s Daughter presents a portrait of a person hitherto lost to history, described by Galileo as “a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me.”
Son of a musician, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) tried at first to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded round the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the argument that the Earth moves round the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy and forced to spend his last years under house arrest.
Of Galileo’s three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of such qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was 13 when Galileo placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father’s greatest source of strength through his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and woven into the narrative, graces her father’s life now as it did then.
Galileo’s Daughter dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishment of a mythic figure whose 17th-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. Moving between Galileo’s grand public life and Maria Celeste’s sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity’s perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned.
In that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and the Thirty Years’ War tipped fortunes across Europe, one man sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through a telescope.
In this book Sobel brings her full talents to bear on what is perhaps her most ambitious topic to date-the planets of our solar system.
Sobel explores the origins and oddities of the planets through the lens of popular culture, from astrology, mythology, and science fiction to art, music, poetry, biography, and history.
Written in her characteristically graceful prose, The Planets is a stunningly original celebration of our solar system and offers a distinctive view of our place in the universe.
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos
By 1514, the reclusive cleric Nicolaus Copernicus had written and hand-copied an initial outline of his heliocentric theory-in which he defied common sense and received wisdom to place the sun, not the earth, at the center of our universe, and set the earth spinning among the other planets. Over the next two decades, Copernicus expanded his theory through hundreds of observations, while compiling in secret a book-length manuscript that tantalized mathematicians and scientists throughout Europe. For fear of ridicule, he refused to publish.
In 1539, a young German mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus, drawn by rumors of a revolution to rival the religious upheaval of Martin Luther’s Reformation, traveled to Poland to seek out Copernicus.
Two years later, the Protestant youth took leave of his aging Catholic mentor and arranged to have Copernicus’s manuscript published, in 1543, as De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres)-the book that forever changed humankind’s place in the universe.
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